Once you have visited the museum in Watseka it is time to take a tour of the railroad as it remains today. Most of the former C&EI is still intact with only some minor branch lines abandoned. This is a credit to the importance of the original railroad in that it became a feeder to the Chicago area in the late 1800’s and remains so today under control of CSX Transportation and the Union Pacific south of Woodland Junction, just south of Watseka, and joint control from Woodland Junction to Dolton Junction on the south side of Chicago. A history of the railroad is elsewhere in this web site.
Southeast to Evansville
Heading south along the UP from Watseka a good railfan place is Woodland Junction, some 6 miles to the south. Here the Union Pacific St. Louis/Southern Illinois lines splits off to the southwest while the CSXT line to Danville and Evansville splits to the southeast. Further south on the CSX line you will find the former Milford depot, now city hall and meeting center. In Rossville the former depot houses the Danville Junction Chapter, NRHS museum and train layout with much of the display featuring the C&EI. The museum is open weekends in the summer months.
In Danville the remains of the beautiful Danville station still stand, though the beauty is gone. Danville Junction and North Yard still exist and this is the crossing of Norfolk Southern former Wabash mainline, a great train watching location. There are still some buildings of the former C&EI Danville Junction shops standing along with businesses that made up Danville Junction. The former Oaklawn Shops are still located on the east side of Danville and can be viewed from the Oregon Street overpass. This is now the home of Johnstown America and over 30 aluminum coal hoppers are built there daily. On the east side of Danville is Brewer Yard and trains arriving and departing can be viewed from Vine Street at the south end of the yard..
Heading south the former Clinton, Indiana depot is now a mining and railroad museum. This beautiful station lies on the curve near the Wabash River bridge. In Terre Haute the former C&EI Haley Tower still stands next to the track, however, it has been removed from service and moved to the new site of the railroad museum of the Haley Tower Historical and Technical Society. In Princeton, Indiana the depot has been restored as a visitor center and sits adjacent to the CSXT/Norfolk Southern mainlines.
Southwest to St. Louis and Southern Illinois
Southwest from Woodland Junction the first major town is Villa Grove. This is a UP division point and part of the roundhouse along with other building is still standing. Taking the southwest leg out of Findley Junction one can find the former IC tower at Pana that controlled the interlocking of four railroads, only the UP remains.
Taking the south leg from Findley Junction to Southern Illinois one needs to stop at Shelbyville to view the major trestle that crosses the river valley. At Altamont the line joins CSX, the former Conrail St. Louis line, and heads west before turning south on UP tracks at St. Elmo and heading to Salem. Salem yard is still active and the station sits adjacent to the main track, formerly an antique shop it is now empty. South of Salem the first major town is Mt. Vernon. Here the former Southern and Louisville & Nashville lines cross the UP. The former Precision National locomotive rebuilding shops are located at the junction.
At Benton the UP heads southwest through Murphysboro to join up with the mainline at Gorham near the Mississippi River. South of Benton the UP continues on former C&EI trackage to West Frankfort, Marion and ending near the Ohio River at Joppa. The former branch to Thebes bridge is gone, but the embankment can still be seen in traces along with bridge structures while the depot at Tamms is now used as a city building. Be sure to venture to Thebes to view the massive bridge over the Mississippi River.
North to Dolton
Heading north from Watseka the former C&EI line is now a high-speed double track with reverse signaling and universal crossovers every 10 to 15 miles. The first photo location is Momence with the bridges over the Kankakee River. You enter into the park just off Route 1, between the two bodies of water. The former Conrail line and the abandoned Milwaukee line crosses the UP at the north edge of town. At the south edge of the city the remains of the “Coal Road” from Indiana is now a branch off the UP that serves industry. The wide area between the mainline and the connection is the site of the former roundhouse and yard tracks.
Continue north on Route 1 and stop at Beecher. Here the former depot has been moved back to town and restored by the local historical society. Stay on Route 1 where Route 394 splits off and stop at the former Olympia Fields Race Track. A part of the passenger platform where the C&EI trains used to unload still remains on the west side of the highway. At Chicago Heights you will find the EJ&E tower guarding the crossing. Many UP trains are staged south of this point when traffic volume does not allow them to proceed to Dolton Yard.
Thornton Junction is the crossing of the Canadian National, former GTW, and near the south end of Dolton Yard. Dolton Yard is crossed over by Sibley Avenue and the yard may be viewed from the bridge. At the north end of the yard is Dolton Junction, crossing of the IHB and B&O CT (CSX), a very busy location.
Not on the line, but still a former C&EI building, is the former office building located at 646 Chicago Road that now houses a telephone company.